| A man kisses his daughter after he was released from a 10-day quarantine at a centre in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing. (AFP)
Beijing, May 5 (Reuters): Villagers in China protested violently against quarantining suspected SARS patients near their homes and China reported scores more cases, suggesting the deadly disease was far from under control at the epicentre of global outbreaks.
About 1,000 villagers in the town of Xiandie in coastal Zhejiang province smashed and overturned police and government cars, and demanded that the patients, quarantined in the poorly equipped office building, be moved away.
The latest eruption of SARS rioting in China came as the outbreak in Taipei worsened. But Hong Kong and Singapore showed signs of containing the deadly virus that has killed 461 people and infected nearly 7,000 across the world.
The rioting in Xiandie had halted but villagers remained at the compound gate and police had been dispatched to disperse the crowd, said an official at the local police station. “They are furious because they don’t want the sick people so close to their homes,” said the official who gave her surname as Zhuang.
The riot in Zhejiang followed another big protest last week sparked by SARS fears in Chagugang, a township 70 km southeast of Beijing. Villagers there rioted over a plan to use an abandoned school to quarantine patients.
China’s health ministry said today nine more people had died from SARS, taking the nation’s total to 206. It said there had been 160 new infections, similar to totals in the past several days, for a cumulative total of 4,280 cases.
China’s new leaders headed by President Hu Jintao, who took office in March, worry that SARS-related violence will erode the carefully guarded bedrock of social stability and pose the kind of political challenge that disgruntled farmers and the unemployed have raised in the recent past.
The incidents highlight deep public distress over SARS.
Officials and ordinary Chinese fear the spread of the disease to the country’s vast and poor hinterland, where healthcare systems are no match for the highly infectious virus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) met Taiwan officials for the first visit time in 30 years, underlining the seriousness of an outbreak that killed two more on the island today.
In a sign that politics was being put aside — at least temporarily — to combat the growing spread of SARS, two doctors from the WHO arrived in Taipei on Saturday for a landmark 13-day visit that was approved by China.
Taiwan lost its WHO seat in 1972 after Beijing replaced Taipei at the UN.
The island has lobbied repeatedly to rejoin the health body, but membership is blocked by China, which regards Taiwan as a breakaway province.